Pioneer. Rebel. Visionary. Say what you want about the controversial career of Raiders owner Al Davis, but the NFL lost a true icon with his passing Saturday. The younger generation of NFL fans might not believe this, but Davis' Raiders own the third-highest winning percentage (.568) in the NFL since 1963, behind the Dallas Cowboys (.592) and Miami Dolphins (.573). "Just win, baby" and "Commitment to Excellence" weren't merely sayings. They were a way of life for Davis, as this photo essay hopefully shows.
1963: Hired as Raiders' coach and general manager
Davis was just 33 when he took over as coach and general manager of the then-AFL's Oakland Raiders, becoming the youngest person in pro football history to hold those positions.
1963: A team of all-stars
The Raiders went from 1-13 in 1962 to 10-4 in Davis' first year, producing six Associated Press AFL All-Star selections seen here (from left: defensive halfbacks Tommy Morrow and Fred Williamson, linebacker Archie Matsos, halfback Clem Daniels, center Jim Otto and end Art Powell).
1963: AFL Coach of the Year
Not surprisingly, Davis was named AFL Coach of the Year in 1963 after producing the largest turnaround in league history. In three years as coach, Davis compiled a 23-16-3 record.
1966: Appointed AFL commissioner
Ralph Wilson, AFL president and Buffalo Bills owner, hired Davis as the league's new commissioner to succeed Joe Foss. But Davis' tenure was short-lived. After the NFL and AFL agreed to an alliance in 1966, Davis resigned as commissioner and returned to the Raiders as managing general partner.
1977: Winning with Madden
Perhaps Davis saw a little bit of himself in John Madden when he promoted the 33-year-old from linebackers coach to head coach in 1969. Eight years later, Madden rewarded Davis with the franchise's first NFL championship in a 32-14 victory over the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl XI.
1980: L.A.-bound? Not so fast
Davis, seen here with Los Angeles city officials at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, attempted to move the Raiders to Southern California in 1980, but he was blocked by a court injunction. Davis filed an antitrust lawsuit against the NFL, and the legal battle lasted two years.
1981: A first for the NFL
In the midst of Davis' legal case against the NFL, the Raiders continued winning. In January 1981, they defeated the Philadelphia Eagles 27-10 in Super Bowl XV. That made Tom Flores, the NFL's first Latino coach hired by Davis in 1979, the first minority coach in NFL history to win a Super Bowl.
1982: L.A., here we come!
In June of 1982, Davis finally got his way when a federal district court ruled in his favor, allowing the Raiders to officially relocate to Los Angeles for the 1982 season.
1984: A third Lombardi Trophy
The Raiders cruised to a 38-9 victory over the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl XVIII for their third championship in eight years.
1989: Another first for the NFL
Credit Davis for opening doors for minority head coaches in the NFL. He did it with Flores, and he did it again in 1989, when he hired Art Shell as the first African-American head coach of the modern era. From 1989 to 1994, Shell went 54-38 with three playoff appearances.
1995: Back where they belong
Davis, seen here signing an Oakland Coliseum lease, returned the Raiders to the East Bay in 1995. He then sued the NFL, contending the league sabotaged the team's effort to build a stadium in Inglewood, Calif., but to no avail. Always the rebel, Davis went to court against the league more than a half-dozen times.
1998: One nation
Through thick and thin, from Oakland to L.A. and back to Oakland, Raiders fans always stood by their team's owner, as evidenced in this 1998 photo. Something about the Silver and Black mystique that Davis created always has made Raider Nation one of the NFL's strongest, most loyal fan bases.
2006: Inducting Madden
Eleven players who made their primary contributions with the Raiders during the Davis era have been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, along with one head coach, John Madden. Like Madden, many of those men loved Davis -- himself inducted in 1992 -- so much that he made a record nine presentations of inductees.